Friday, 21 May 2010

Surviving the Submissions Process

After a few (minor) false starts, the final draft of Back from the Dead is finished (you can tell that it's the last one, because it has the words "Final Draft" in the filename). Now, my agent has to make up a submission package, unleash it on the publishing industry and wait for the polite rejections to drop into her inbox. But how can I best fill this long period of uncertainty?

Here are a list of dos and don'ts for surviving the submissions process:

  1. Do write a blog post with a list in it. Lists are short, snappy and give evidence of an ordered mind. Any editors reading such a list will be impressed.

  2. Don't write sub-lists. These are:
    1. Boring.
    2. Evidence of an over-ordered mind.
    3. Suggest someone who might set fire to an editor's cat if their book is rejected.

  3. Don't over-hype the book. Publishers are sick of receiving letters claiming that an author is the next J.K. Rowling or Lemony Snicket. Be more realistic with your comparisons, but avoid saying you are the next Kaavya Viswanathan.

  4. Don't reveal business details about the submissions process. Statements such as "Editor X has offered me a gazillion pound deal" or "Editor Y wants to sign me up for 10 books" may prejudice the contract process. Also, avoid phrases like "I think Editor Z fancies me."

  5. Do find a new hobby to fill the tense weeks and months while the book is out for submission. Consider embarking on writing a multi-book series about wizards or vampires, or buy a really, really big jigsaw.

  6. Don't list every rejection you receive on your blog, along with comments about the editor and notes on their personal hygiene. A simple gift of soap or deodorant is so much more thoughtful and will ensure the editor in question remembers you when your next book comes up for submission.

  7. Do draw a picture for the cover of your book, or ask a small child to draw one for you. A publisher's marketing department is not always the easiest place to work, and they will gain many hours of simple joy from laughing at your attempts to do their job for them.

  8. Do be prepared to meet publishers and talk enthusiastically about your book. Do not become psychotically enraged when they suggest turning your YA werewolf novel into an early-reader series about fairies with "issues."

Finally, do have fun. The submissions process is not a dehumanising cattle market - it is a chance to make new friends and earn an advance that will more than cover your agent's photocopying bill.



  1. Very funny - you've made me smile :D
    And all suggestions duly noted.

  2. i think having fun is a really important component! RTing on twitter!

  3. Start the next book? Sort of takes your mind of things, I suppose.

  4. Good luck Nick, I know how you feel as I've just sent my second book out to a publisher (I don't have an agent as yet). I agree with Miriam, start the next book. I am now working on the second draft of my third book.

  5. Brilliant, I love it! So, how's the really big jigsaw going...? ;-)